From the Archive: ‘Pink and Black’, by Michael Farrell


Image by Helen K. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

These poems appear in The Lifted Brow #26

I was on a mountain once, and saw sand in your shoes
There was a rosella feather in my old felt hat repeating
(repeating, repeating). You had the glint of a character
Then there was the woman at the bookshop and we
talked through the bus in my hand. A wound would
do too. Am I a genius, the child asked his uncle in the
bullyard? You’re making me think so, the uncle replied
staggering. When we sit in a cafeteria, trying to see how
much cheap coffee our young bodies can take, I begin
to talk about something I’ve seen on TV. Don’t tell us
what you look like, they say. We make letters in the air
like it’s sand. Pull your jumper down to the edge of inexistence
Forty years later in the gym, entranced by another’s shoulder
muscles, like a vulture trying to winch a wildebeest in without
swallowing. These are everyday miracles of saying nothing
In Australia it’s safe to wind your window down. There’s
nothing harder than an unripe nectarine coming your way
I had nothing to say to your friend that day, so you slipped
away too (mouth still bleeding). In the dark a park can look
like Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, but at least no one says so
When I sit at the table listening to him reckon that pop music’s
rubbish or getting angry in bed at a convenience store slight
we wind back to country towns again, or growing up Greek
in a Celtic gown: all the nectarine farmers whistling at you
from their convertible utes. They’re beauts really, if you get
them alone with an uppercut. Or let them give you a haircut
In the novel the man is a worm bursting with pink health and
black soil and a passing familiarity with Stendhal. His friends
might be quoting Mao in the elevator but he understands them
as New Yorker caption artists. From bar to bar they might be
unrecognisable, with postcolonial patter and miming, badly
Chilean folk tunes to the local trash. If you are patient, and
wear contact lenses in the shower, you will know who’s in
there with you. The phallus leaps: a joke that never flies
One-liners flood my mind in the presence of others. Have
you ever been mellow: a milder code for older blow-ins
The therapist asks what roads desire takes me down? Up
I answer, the roads are always up. Hundreds of pages to go
so nothing will succeed that easy, wear a mushroom in your
buttonhole and I’ll know that the frost is on the buttercups
and the teaspoons are lined with electric shocks and your
jeans marked with lava. Reach for the guidebook or opera
program. The lead is lying in his bath naming the works
of Duchamp, the support in another naming eucalypts
The more bubbles, the more thoughts. What am I to think?
Bysshe said he was just checking the sheep, but he came
back rambling a story involving briars and an escape from
a man with a damaged hand: I’d heard that tune before
I assumed he was reading a thriller in the dunny, though
I hadn’t heard the dunny door. He said he’d opted out of
emptying obligations. You don’t want an orange, you don’t
want a flying cactus, not even a painting of a romantic
heroine crying on a bridge, with alluvial gold glowing
like a dentist’s horde underneath. You want your head in
a fireman’s armpit or groin and a ride-on mower and a
backyard to use it in. But that was too many hundreds of
tuna tins ago, everyone’s been out roaming the streets for
hours and their phone batteries are all low. Aches have set
in, not all unenjoyable. Wigs’ve been thrown in the river
Pizzas and shadows are used to your presence: pick one

Michael Farrell’s Cocky’s Joy was published by Giramondo in 2015. His scholarly book, Writing Australian Unsettlement: Modes of Poetic Invention 1796–1945, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2016.